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Talking to Parents with an ADHD Kid

Parents want to talk about their kids. ( I offer this blog as exhibit A.) It’s probably the single biggest reason we so often drift away from our childless friends who, after all, have interests that encompass world events, social networks, work, travel and relationships. We gravitate to other parents with whom we can feign interest in one another’s boring kid stories until it’s our turn to talk. Stop it; you know it’s true. Our social networks are determined by our child’s grade and extracurricular activities; work is what gets us away from the kids for short spells but too often at all the wrong times; travel. Hmm. Never mind. Relationships morph subtly into regular staff meetings.

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That “darnedest thing” our six-year-old came out with the other day is probably the funniest damn thing that’s happened all week, so it’s no wonder this is what we bring to the table.

We don’t waste a lot of time waiting for our openings, either; we get to be very adept at creating our opportunities to share. “NASDAQ traded down another 2% today? Oh my god, that reminds me…” and we’re off, enthusiastically recounting with an attention to detail rivalled only by a few African oral traditions.

Add into the mix a particularly gifted child (or a particularly delusional parent, your choice) and before you know it, everyone at the table is riveted by talk of incompetent coaches, the Suzuki Method and/or the effects of stress on young bones. It’s enough to strike Bill O’Reilly dumb. But even these folks are rank amateurs alongside the parent of an ADHD kid. We don’t require any opening. We’re accustomed to talking to someone who isn’t listening. We spend an extraordinary amount of time around someone who doesn’t know from social cues, and we really, really need to talk to grownups from time to time, so guess what? There is no stopping us. The reason for this is pretty straightforward: aside from driving us slowly bonkers, the stuff our kids do is pretty damn funny and makes for great material as in “you think I could make this stuff up?”

Yes, yes, your child just placed second in the gymnastics sectional, but did she ever put a pull-up on over her head, strip to her underwear and bolt down the block to show off the new Spartan warrior costume? Didn’t think so. Your son just brought home a prize for essay writing? That’s wonderful. Mine can recite all the dialog from the entire first half of “Clone Wars”. With sound effects. At the dinner table. Every night.

My son’s quirks produce similarly off-beat retribution from little sister. “I’m warning you boys to leave her alone before…” “EEEEEEEEEE!! AHHHHH! HELP!” This from two panicked ADHD boys in flight from little sister, who is driving them remorselessly from room to room, a look of grim satisfaction on her face, walking backwards, wagging her bare behind and chanting all the while “stupid boys. Stupid boys…”

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Yeah, it’s not like it’s a competition.

The Experienced Couple

 

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I’m going to be attending a wedding soon, between a couple of very good friends (actually, I’ll be performing the ceremony *blush* but that’s another story). It’s naturally gotten me to thinking about my own marriage.

My spouse and I will shortly be celebrating our 26th anniversary. The 25th was supposed to have been a really big celebration and there was even talk of a cruise but, when the time came, we were trying to come up with the mortgage, one child had just started in a new school . . . It goes like that. I’m pretty sure we managed to exchange flowers from Trader Joe’s but I can’t swear to it. Okay, it was not memorable. But it was okay, you know?
It’s another year later and we’re still at it.

Once you’ve passed ten years or so in a relationship, you become something of a public resource. “Wow,” people say, eyes widening, “what’s your secret?” Now, I typically respond “I married someone with infinite patience”. It’s flip, I know, but there’s a good deal of truth to it as well. I mean, in many cases, that’s longer than you have to put up with parents. Only sibling relationships have greater longevity but you no longer have to share a bedroom with them. Yep, infinite patience is a valuable component in any long term relationship. Beyond that, there’s not much advice I can give because it’s all new to me. Really.

I can tell how we’ve done things up to this point but as of today, I’m as new to it as the next person. Each day brings new challenges, like making the mortgage, getting the kids into bed, being stranded in a vast forested region of Pennsylvania with a car that has died for the last time. (Incidentally, if you can navigate that one without screaming at each other, dissolving into helpless sobs or vowing to leave everyone right there and walk home, dammit, your prognosis is pretty darn good).

Parents get this a lot, as well. As though having staggered your way through raising a toddler has prepared you in even the slightest way to raise a teen. It just aint so. We’ve managed. We’ll probably manage tomorrow. We’ll make an ungodly mess of things and go to bed vowing that tomorrow, we’ll manage not to holler at the kids, we’ll try to remember to call when we get held up, we’ll try, by god, to mow the damn lawn. But on balance, we’ve done alright. We still love each other even if we’re less demonstrative than we once were, we’ve raised two kids who are awesome and smart and good and who know that Michelle Bachman is a whack job and only slightly less so than the people who think she’s presidential material. They’ll do alright. They’ll probably even do better than us. So that’s okay then.

Oh, and those friends who are getting married? Very sound prognosis. Some very deep, mature love going on there. A solid dose of infinite patience, as well. And after all, they have some experience.

A Generation of Alphabet Boys

I have a kid with ADHD. Big deal. The truth is, I don’t know anyone with a son that doesn’t have ADHD. Or Aspergers. Or learning disabilities. Or SI disorders. They’re all alphabet boys and a gathering of my son’s friends is a tragi-comic buffet of twitching, fidgeting and shoe staring. All of it very loud.


What’s going on? I’ve heard the argument that we’re pathologizing normal boy behavior. (Actually, I’ve heard a host of sanctimonous arguments usually undertaken more for the pleasure of knowing better than someone who is already on the edge than to offer helpful insights. You know who you are; shut up.) Before having a child with ADHD, I am ashamed to say, I was one of those.

Raised with brothers, I dismissed all those whiny parents who couldn’t cope with active, creative sons and felt uniquely well-equipped to deal with a boy. I was not equipped to deal with mine. From day one, the kid was a pill. We laugh together now over baby stories: how he spit up everything that ever went in him, how he flipped out over textures and noises and cried almost continuously; how getting him to fall asleep, no matter how tired he was, required a ritual no less elaborate than a Hindu wedding; how he didn’t sleep through the night until he was oh, four. Years. We only just recently got him out of our bed and, no, there is no way I’m going to admit how old he is at present.

He was expelled — yes, actually asked to leave, immediately, please — from three day care settings before he was two and a half. I mean, come on; how bad can someone that age and size manage to be? The thing is, my son is also catch-your-breath beautiful and was speaking in full, clear sentences by that age. So whenever we sought help, describing the child from hell, we inevitably had to produce said child, who spoke engagingly and looked like nothing so much as an earthly manifestation of an angel. Any professional sympathy we had earned in the first consultation withered under his charm assault into the kind of looks most commonly directed toward people suspected of drowning kittens.

Our daughter was born when he was twenty-two months. When she herself reached that age, she was using the potty, tying her shoes, using the microwave to warm her milk bottles (don’t look at me like that — it was her idea), choosing her outfits. He, by way of contrast, still has to be reminded for 20 minutes or so to stop wandering aimlessly with his underwear around his ankles and pull it up, and then can’t reliably figure out what goes on over it. This with an IQ that is roughly 40% higher than the average.

One day, just for fun, we sent him to school without his meds — his teacher was not convinced of the need to implement any special accomodations recommended for him. I admit I was surprised that it was a whole hour and a half before the school called to ask me to come take him home and to warn me sternly that if he ever again forgot his meds, he would not be permitted to stay.

It’s maddening. And he’s not doing it on purpose. But don’t try to tell me it’s normal.

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